The crawl space is one of those areas most people just really never give much thought. It’s the one place where most home owners have never been, and frankly I don’t recommend going into without knowing what to prepare for and how to protect yourself. So it stands to reason, there very well may be things going on down there that are unknown. Things that could have been going on for a long time that just haven’t caused a problem yet but will if not corrected, conditions that could be causing inside air quality issues, energy loss, and the list goes on. As with all the post to follow in this blog this is not meant to be an all encompassing list of what could be going on below your feet, rather it is intended to help answer the questions? What does an inspector look for? and is a home inspection really that important?
Damp, or wet floor
In this first picture you can see that the corner is damp, in this particular crawl space it was damp enough that when I pushed down on it with my hand it easily sunk into the mud. If this condition is left uncorrected (in this case a very simple fix, more on this in a bit) the ground below the foundation footings could lose the ability to support the load above and could cause this corner to sink, compromising the structure of the house and taking the complexity of the fix from DIY to Structural engineer AKA $tructural Engineer (see what I did there?). So what is the easy solution I mentioned before, I said I would get to? Excessive moisture near the foundation is one of the worst scenarios for a foundation. The two most common ways to keep excessive moisture away is, #1: Grading of the lot. Sloping the earth so water runs away from the home. #2: Discharging roof run off through gutters and down spouts and away from the house. In the case of this house, the down spout was discharging right next to the foundation. My suggestion to the client? Install a down spout extension that will discharge the roof run off a minimum of 6ft. away from the house. Of course there is several other reasons why you want to keep moisture out of the crawl space, this is just one.
Energy efficiency loss
Here we see areas were the sub-floor insulation is sagging between the floor joists. Sub-floor insulation prevents moisture intrusion and energy loss through the living space flooring. Left uncorrected this will lead to continued unnecessarily high heating cost and cold floors, not to mention conditions conducive to unhealthy microbial growth. Again this is not a major condition that should scare you. Does it need fixed? Absolutely! But again it’s a relatively easy fix. In the long run fixing this condition will save you money, and allow you to breath easier.
The next picture show something a little more serious. This house had several areas where dirt has settled and or fallen away from the foundation and the slab of the concrete floor in the garage. Not having a solid base underneath the slab and the footing can eventually cause the slab itself to settle causing large cracks and uneven surface in the garage, and compromise the structure of the home. This is a little more complex of a fix, but foundation companies have easy solutions to this type of problem. My suggest to this client is to seek evaluation by a qualified contractor, and discuss the methods and cost for repair, prior to closing.
Outlined in this post are just 3 of the numerous conditions that could be lurking under your feet. But as I have pointed out many issues if handled appropriately and in time are not problems to be scared of. It is important to remember, anything in, on, or around a house can be fixed. The intention of a quality home inspector is never to scare you or point out all the reasons you shouldn’t buy a particular house, rather it is to arm you with as much knowledge as possible for you to decide if this is the right house for you. For, often times less than the cost of one month’s mortgage payment, a qualified home inspector will perform a comprehensive home inspection and report to you all the information needed for you to make the best, and most informed decision on, likely the largest monetary investment of your life.